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Citrus boys team down, but no "pushover'

Certain themes just seem to reoccur.

Take Citrus County swimming.

Crystal River always is the deepest in terms of sheer numbers and, it seems, always is the team to beat. Lecanto usually brings up the rear and Citrus well, Citrus usually falls somewhere in between.

Different year. Same story.

While the Hurricanes may not have the numbers to match Crystal River in dual meets or in the district championship, they do have goals. And those goals include qualifying as many swimmers as possible for state.

"I don't think we're ready this year (to challenge Crystal River)," boys coach Doug Patton said. "We're as weak as I can remember, but we'll be challenging most teams. We're not going to be a pushover for anybody.

"We have to prepare all these young ones for the future," Patton said. "We have a few seniors that we're going to lose and we need to replace them with people coming up. Hopefully, we'll be stronger next year."

But don't cry for the 'Canes.

Citrus does have its share of talent, starting with 100 meter backstroke champion Jimmy Baker and senior diver Adam Branson.

The latter especially is surprising for fans as the program just instituted diving last year. Branson played third fiddle to district champion Chris Gayheart of Lecanto and conference champ John Sparkman of Crystal River, but assumes the role of top dog this year.

They will be joined by seniors Rob Callahan, Matt Frankel and Brian Mason, whom Patton will rely on to keep his Hurricanes in contention during dual meets.

The Citrus girls, meanwhile, are in much better shape and may even challenge Crystal River for local supremacy.

The team is led by seniors Lauren Gaffney, Katherine Jones and Kelly Smith along with promising sophomore Megan St. Clair.

Gaffney is the most accomplished of the four, but the question is whether her dual participation in cross country and swimming will take away from her respective performances in both.

"I think they complement each other in many ways," Citrus coach Frank Bachteler said. "She's not devoting extensive time for swimming. Last year, she was a little off her lifetime best, but she still swam faster when we got to state."

The Hurricanes have lots of bodies to back up Gaffney and Co., with no less than five swimmers and divers back, including Stephanie Bird, who finished third at district diving last year.